In a direct response to our original posting below pertaining to the statements made by former designer Xander Davis, the General Manager of Vigil Games reached out with an official statement concerning the issues at hand. Instead of dissecting and diluting the message myself, I will post it in full below and allow you to come to your own conclusions surrounding the controversy.
After ending yesterday with the successful launch of Darksiders II, we at Vigil Games woke up to get word of a former employee’s statements regarding how his contributions were not being accounted for in the credits of the game. What was most disheartening about the statements was how misleading they were, and how they fly in the face of how Vigil, culturally, feels about and treats our teams.
While employment and privacy laws preclude us from discussing the circumstances surrounding the departure of any individual no longer with the company, we can confirm that the employee in question worked for us a total of 90 days, whereas Darksiders II was more than 2 ½ years in development.
When we were forced to reduce staff due to the cancellation of a project, we worked hard to ensure every single person effected by the layoff received their credit in the game. We did not include individuals whose employment terminated for any other reason, for example, being let go for documented poor performance.
We believe we treat both current and former positive contributors to our studio like family, and any statements otherwise are highly inaccurate and can be verified as same. We would ask any press who wish to report on this former employee’s statements to check the accuracy of these erroneous claims, before printing them as factual.
To reiterate, Vigil’s primary concern while doing Darksiders II credits was that we credited team members that were affected by the recent downsizing. We were not focused on the issue of employees that voluntarily left or were fired from the company. We find it alarming that a former employee would personally attack and lie about other team members while falsely inflating his contribution to the game.
We thank, once again, all those who positively contributed to Darksiders II.
General Manager, Vigil Games
Darksiders II released yesterday with a remarkable response from critics and gamers alike. A few of us even issued a not-so-slight sigh of relief to see that this triple-A title from the teetering-on-the-edge publisher THQ is set to become a financial success as well. Before you feel any more pity, however, you might want to take a peek behind the scenes where things aren’t as happy-go-lucky as they seem.
”Oh delightful. Just found out I’m not even credited on Darksiders 2 when the UI is 99% from my direction & hard work, done in record time.”
The wicked scenario only gets worse with the flow of his feed from there on out. With all of the retweets from supportive fans intertwined within his own personal tellings, the tale can be a tad difficult to follow through Twitter alone. To smooth the story out, I’ve patched together the important pieces below into something coherent.
Shortly after that original tweet, Mr. Davis detailed his position with Darksiders II, describing that he, ”led the revamp effort, created the pipeline, redesigned & rebuilt every screen, worked till 2AM every night, worked w/ leads every step.” Davis continues, stating that he, “Was whisked to Austin and tasked to fix it, with months to ship. And I did. My team worked as hard as we could. Then, we all lost our jobs.” Concerning the staff, he notes, “Vigil had mass layoffs in March. Entire UI team was laid off. Credible source says they kept one on via retainer who was chummy w/ owners. I was let go a month after DMO changed, they merged the other UI team, & Herb Ellwood swooped in & stole my job. After all my hard work. Herb Ellwood only had a contract with THQ. He used the team merging (which we needed to make ship) to secure a salary. Mine.”
Xander Davis isn’t the only one affected by the lack of crediting with the game either, explaining that, “From what I’m hearing now from my former Vigil co-workers, MANY are left out of the credits apparently on Darksiders 2.”
Unfortunately, these sorts of things seem to be more prevalent than many think, as Davis replied to a hopeful future designer by telling him that this situation, “happens all the time. really, none of this surprised me. i was just vaguely hoping they’d have *some* decency. nope.” To elaborate on the point, he claims, “In triple-A this happens all the time. A lot, the rule is you have to be employed when the game ships. What’s crazy is most aspiring game developers have no idea yet how shitty it is to work in triple-A. My life has been a nightmare for 3 yrs. It’s the price game devs pay. They put up with it, because it’s their dream, to make games. Publishers & studios exploit that to the max.”
Davis eventually took a few moments to further explain his personal experience with designing Darksiders II:
“Despite revamping 27 screens in 30 days, providing a new art direction, new layout & flow, starting from NONE, their coordination was a mess. In Beta, you really only want to be bug fixing. If you have to redesign & rebuild your entire UI, you’re in a state of emergency. And even as you and your team are desperate to solve their problems, and you do it, that still doesn’t fix horrible mismanagement to ship. Then mass-layoffs & a delay “for quality”. I’ll bet. Or maybe a game isn’t ready to ship period & your house isn’t in order. It’s on fire.”
We’ve all heard horror stories of crunch-time development in pseudo-slave labor conditions, but Davis’s accounts of his own last-minute heroism (dramatic, but the guy deserves it) that ultimately amounted to no protection are scarily similar to what so many of us disregard as ridiculous hearsay most of the time:
“When I told the Production Director there was no way their goals fit in the time to ship, he let me go & it was put all on DMO’s UI guy. When the DMO UI guy was pinned with all of Darksiders 2 UI to ship, he threatened to quit within a day. To keep him, they gave him my salary. I had just gotten my Texas driver’s license in the mail that Sunday. By Monday, I was given the boot after rebuilding all of their UI. I said goodbye to all of my friends, completely transplanted my entire life, lived in Austin for 4 months, did my job, & got screwed. Thanks. Before I got there, I should’ve asked: who was it that let the UI get that bad so close to ship? The one UI Artist there or the management? So I come in, asked to be a messiah to save them from the brink and fix all of their problems there, and I do. Result: fuck that guy.”
It’s impossible to believe that anyone wrapped up in these disgusting business practices could remain optimistic after the fact, but Xander Davis isn’t just anyone. Instead, he has high hopes, insisting that, “Darksiders 2 is going in my portfolio. Exactly my roles, expectations, & what was accomplished are going [in] my portfolio. Believe it.”
I do believe it, Xander Davis. I believe in every game developer who’s been blind-sided by the big guy to save a few bucks on a blockbuster title.
If anyone comes across this posting who has not received recognition for his or her hard work with Vigil, make contact with Xander Davis (@XanderDavisLive) as he gathers his former coworkers to publicly rally against development injustice.